Jim Barnett is a Republican who has run for the office of governor before. The last time he made an attempt, he won the Republican primary before losing to Democrat Kathleen Sebelius.
It is an election he speaks about with a smile on his face, despite the loss. It is also an election, he says, that can describe why he has chosen to try again.
“I can stand to lose the election,” Barnett told a small group of Newtonians during a luncheon at Norm's Friday. “I know how to lose. I just want to be on the right side of the issues.”
Friday he spoke about health care and the health of the state budget with local leaders at an event arranged by the Newton Area Chamber of Commerce.
He spoke of expanding Medicaid and protecting Kansas hospitals. He also was very clear that if he is elected, there will be changes in Topeka.
“The next governor will have to provide a budget with revenues to pay for it,” Barnett said. “... I will introduce a budget that balances.”
He said that will include supporting education and health care.
Barnett discussed what he believes are structural problems in Kansas — much of that he laid at the feet of the current Governor, Sam Brownback. He talked about tax cuts passed by the Legislature, at the urging of Gov. Brownback, and how that has affected the state budget.
He took particular issue with the state taking on $400 million in bond debt to work on Kansas roads. Brownback swept funds out of the Kansas Department of Transportation — more than once — to prop up the general fund.
Barnett said Friday he believes it could take a decade, or more, for Kansas to recover financially from the past few years.
“We will not get out this mess unless we invest in our state,” Barnett said. “ … I believe that the next governor of Kansas, if they do what needs to be done, will likely be a one-term governor.”
He praised the Legislature for a tax increase in last session that removed exemptions for LLCs and move the state tax formula back towards what is traditionally called a “three legged stool” which uses sales, property and income taxes to fund state government.
That move, to make adjustments to income taxes, required a veto override vote. Barnett called that brave.
“And those people will get hammered in the next election,” Barnett said.